Dairy Art Centre
Thursday 21 Aug 2014


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Situated in Bloomsbury, London, the Dairy Art Centre is a not-for-profit initiative founded by the art collectors Nicolai Frahm and Frank Cohen. The Founders wanted a design that would respect the aesthetic of the former Express Dairies depot, providing space that would allow exhibitions to be enjoyed in a non-institutional and non-commercial way. The project was completed within a challenging budget in exactly one year from first enquiry to the opening of the inaugural show of John Armleder in April 2013.

Since the collection of existing buildings and yards already promised a curatorial sequence of differentiated spaces for exhibitions and events, the designers developed a language for its appropriation that created new interventions only where there was a need, and then through a filter of distillation and realignment they removed and re-used elements of the existing.

The result is deliberately passive to allow the ‘art' to be the focus, with the exception of the entrance where it had to work hard to facilitate art loading, event flow, gallery window, security, fire exit and an entrance. This was achieved through choreography of visible doors, sliding windows, pocket walls, invisible doors and existing sliding shutters. The material palette was kept deliberately colourless, using white, mirror stainless steel, glass and translucent multiwall polycarbonate. An assembly of clear, solid, reflective and translucent surfaces reveal partial views and reflected views are flattened within the material surface.

A family of fluorescent lighting details was developed to camouflage into the ceiling architecture with the exception of the entrance which is illuminated by a seamless back-lit fabric ceiling panel that spans from the lobby to the first gallery, acting as a curating device.

Liberated by the tight budget they either re-used the existing lavatory fixtures or specified from builders' merchants catalogues. They then juxtaposed the utilitarian with a bespoke plywood and mirror shelf over each of the wash hand basins.

The industrial sheds were by their nature porous to external conditions. The design team challenged the level of thermal performance / relative humidity to a standard appropriate for the storage of art which resulted in a low energy installation and operation. The quality of air that one senses feels authentic to the experience of viewing art in an appropriated industrial space.

Studio Jenny Jones


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